Friday, March 31, 2017

Living with Gratitude... or Trying To

Recently the world often feels chaotic, dangerous, and often ugly... The news is full of terrible things happening to good, innocent people... and it feels like there is just too much hatred for and fear of anyone "other" going around.  Some days it's enough to make me want to pull the covers up over my head and hide in bed.  Of course I know that's not possible because of so many things (like bed sores!) so I do what you do... I get up and keep on keeping on.

And it's just not the news of the world that can be overwhelming.  There's been quite a bit going on in my personal life that's had me a bit more introspective than normal.  No one freak out... we're all fine here overall.  It's just that things are changing and roles shifting and that can cause stress, anxiety, and more.

I mostly keep my blog focused on the jewelry (and there is some of that here!) but sometimes I need to dig a little deeper about what's going on and what's on my mind.  I want to be better about putting that out there... I guess this is my attempt.

You may ask yourself, what got me thinking along these lines... it was actually a reminder in a Facebook group I'm a member of, Artisans Create Together, for the month's creative challenge which is all about words.  Anyway, to the point... the bead from my stash that jumped out at me was one from Swoondimples that says "begin each day with a grateful heart."

Normally I would have just kept on trucking... but, for whatever reason, today that message really struck home with me.  Even though I'm fighting through my second day of a migraine (hoping that it's the last day too) and it's chilly and grey here in Minnesota, I have so very much to be grateful for.  I was really thinking about all of those things as I made the necklace below.

Even on my worst day... I know that I have a pretty charmed life.  I know that I'm blessed to have a wonderful husband who is so very supportive and encouraging, two sweet kitties, a lovely home, and great friends and family.  I'm lucky to have my health and enough financial security to mostly do what we want and need to do.

So... where am I going with all of this?  I'm going to strive to do better about expressing and embracing gratitude.  I'm never going to be a complete optimist... I'm no sunshine-y Pollyanna type and never will be!  But when the world has got me down, I CAN do a better job remembering that I've got it much better than many do and being grateful for the things I do have instead of bitter for what I do not.  I can love a little harder, hug a little longer, and do a better job showing my appreciation for those around me.  I can look for the good and try my best to make a difference to change the bad.    

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Inspired by Reading: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This month's Inspired by Reading Book Club selection is a book that got a lot of buzz when it first came out... Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  I actually reserved a copy in two or three times when it was new but never got around to reading it before it was due back.  At that point in my life, I had precious little time to read adult books, so I just never could get around to it or so many other books.  I truly adored this book... but it makes me wonder how many other great books that I've missed out along the way.  But, hey, this is why I love book club!

I would highly recommend this book if you're looking for a light, fun read!  Because of the way the story unfolds through emails, letters, FBI documents, and even an ER bill it's a truly unique reading experience.  As usual I'm not wanting to give too much away... but I really loved how the author ends up tying the narrative all together at the end.  Curious?  You'll just have to read it for yourself to see what I mean!  I'll just tell you that this is a nice mix of humor, adventure, and mystery... and it's also a great story about family and relationships.

I wasn't immediately sure what direction I wanted to take for my design this time.  I had several inspiration options: the rainy weather of Seattle (I have a rain cloud from Jade Scott that I've been hoarding), the blackberry bramble, the ice of Antarctica (but I had just done a set of icy Honey Do List projects), and, what I finally chose, PENGUINS!

I decided to finally break out the adorable penguin charms that Eric bought me from Jetta Bug Jewelry two Christmases ago.  These are definitely for me... not for sale.  I have a bit of a thing for penguins.  (As a matter of fact our guest bedroom is decorated with a large portion of my penguin collection!)

These are most, but not all of my penguin friends!
Anyway, I've gotten off topic!  I paired my little penguins with some lava rock and crackle quartz crystal rounds and some silver pringle spacers.  (Do these have another "real" name?  I'm not always great at knowing what things are actually called!)  I'm not entirely sure how often I will really wear these, but the penguins make me stupidly happy anyway!

As a sort of post script, I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately requested the author's other books from my library.  I zipped right through her newest title, Today Will be Different, and loved it too!  Now I've just started her first book, This One is Mine.

Oh, and a second funny (to me at least) aside... when I was in Seattle for a library conference a while back I stayed at the Westin hotel where Audrey Griffin and her family stay (and cause quite the commotion) after the mudslide.  Audrey wasn't too impressed, but I thought it was a nice hotel... and I had an incredible view of Puget Sound!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Artisans Create Together Inspiration Challenge: March 2017

I realized that it's been quite a while since I've played along with the Artisans Create Together color challenge.  I'm getting back on track this month with this delicious, candy colored palette!  I'm not usually all about the pastels, but there's enough turquoise in the collection of inspiration pictures to keep me happy! 

Right around the time that the March color palettes were unveiled, I got a couple of sets of Joan Miller porcelain dragonfly wings.  (At least they look like dragonfly wings to me!)  One of the pairs was a perfect combination of pinks, turquoise, and palest green with a tiny bit of silver thrown in.  I knew that I had to create something for the challenge with these little beauties!  But what to pair with them??

It took a lot of digging in my bead stash and playing with different bead combinations, but I'm a little bit in love with the end result!  I stacked rose quartz rondelles, lovely matte aqua colored Czech glass flowers, silver plated leafy bead caps, crystal rhinestones in AB peridot, and small Czech glass rondelles all together as a unit connected to the wings.  I feel like these earrings would be fitting for a fairy!

Not strictly inspired by the inspiration color palette, I decided to go ahead and make a second pair of earrings with the other set of wings that I snagged from Joan Miller.  These make me think of Easter candy!

I feel like I should have managed more than just a pair of earrings for this month's challenge but other projects have kept me super busy.  At least I managed to use these cute wings instead of letting my new lovelies languish in eternal art bead limbo!  I hope you all are having a wonderful and creative week!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Honey Do List: March 2017

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

I finally got set up with winter gear to go out in the Minnesota tundra...then it promptly got into the 60's and all the snow melted.  Shrugging it off--and into a light jacket--I took a trip down to the river in Belle Plaine and discovered these melting ice crystals shoved up onto the bank.  Not much colorful to take shots of yet but crystals seemed appropriate for a jewelry challenge!

I love the sparkles that Eric captured in this photos.  I immediately thought of some of the gemstones in my hoard such as labradorite, some matte quartz crystal, and rock crystal.  At first glance, it almost looks like a black and white photo, but there are also some subtle shades of brown/bronze to play with as well.

Post Bead Cruise, I really needed to make a dent in all the beads that I have been neglecting to put away (never my favorite task)... that worked out in my favor for this challenge since I uncovered a couple of things that worked quite nicely!  The very first thing I made features one of those little goodies... a fun pair of acrylic connectors by My Elements by Yvonne.  (I got these from Allegory Gallery in a destash.)  I love the shimmer and subtle patterns in these and they are so light!  I made some sparkly little dangles with Czech glass, hematite, and crystal rondelles and used niobium ear wires.

Next up, I went for some of the more bronze and brown tones for a pair of earrings featuring Czech glass and some faceted labradorite rounds.  I wire wrapped tiny matte metallic seed beads onto the brass ear wires to add a little more pizzaz!  I always end up loving the way this wire-wrapping technique looks, but I curse myself while I'm doing it every time!

Another goody that I unearthed when trying to get things put away was a lovely strand of rock crystal that I picked up in an Allegory Gallery destash.  The nuggets are a good size so I decided to use one as the main focal for a long necklace with some smokey Czech glass with a mercury finish.  I made a chain tassel with a cone decorated with striations that reminded me of the lines in the crystals in Eric's photo.  Left completely to my own devices, I probably would have left the necklace at that.  Since I could hear Eric in my mind telling me to do links along the chain, and this is his challenge to me, I kept going.

Last, but not least, I came up with one more pair of earrings for this month's challenge.  I made use of two different sizes of matte quartz crystal rounds, some super sparkly crystal rondelles, and some little vintage plastic or lucite (not entirely sure which) teardrops from an Allegory Gallery bead mix that I won.  Personally, I'm pretty over ice and snow at this point, but these earrings still make me happy!

For the record, I'm not terribly thrilled with my photos for this month's challenge...  the weather wasn't cooperating with giving me good light and I honestly think the white and clear beads were just especially hard to photograph with my iPhone.  Le sigh.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Tassel Making Mania!

I've been trying to divide my creating time between new projects (mostly for various monthly challenges) and taking care of half thought out older projects that have been sitting around.  I noticed a tassel theme running through a few of these and decided to run with it.  So, I'm sharing with you the fruits of my recent tassel making mania!

Tassels and fringe of all kinds have been popular in jewelry and other accessories... and the trend seems to be continuing for spring and summer 2017.  I'm not necessarily all about trying to keep up with the trendiest things, but tassels are super fun and fun to make!

The first type of tassel that I ever tried making was the chain tassel.  I made several simple statement necklaces with dyed agate slabs and chain tassels last fall and I've been meaning to make some more.  I've had a couple of stones set aside for just this for months... and now I've finally finished a few new ones as well as some with carnelian.  I like the look of the strands of fine chain tucked into a coordinating cone!

In addition to the agate and carnelian slabs, I also brought out some colorful almond shaped beads by Golem Design Studio.  These beads are so fun and vibrant that I wanted to add a little more excitement to the chain tassels... so I wire wrapped some tiny Czech glass and crystal beads for decoration!  What do you think of that idea?  It was more work, but I think it was worth it for these two.

Obviously, there are more materials that are perfect for tassels or fringe.  During our beading pajama party on the Bead Cruise last month, Heather Powers taught us how to make two different types of fun tassels.  Of course I wanted to make some new jewelry with my fun new tassel creations!

One of the tassels we made was a long dark purple sari silk ribbon number.  I really loved how rich this one feels!  When I got back from the cruise I found the perfect bead to add to the tassel... it's a large lampwork glass bead from Sue Beads with a wonderful combination of colors including dark purple.  Channeling my husband (who never wants a plain chain), I added some Czech glass links along the long length of brass chain.

My last design for you is more fringe than true tassel, but I thought I'd throw it in anyway.  This is the other project that Heather walked us through during the beading pj party.  We cut fringe into pieces of fun leather from PeggySueAlso and embellished a ribbon crimp end with wire and seed beads in coordinating colors.  This is a really fun idea for giving a plain ribbon end some extra pizzaz!  I kept the necklace with this focal pretty simple.  I just wire wrapped a ceramic flower shaped bead to add above the fringe and called it good on plain chain.

Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been up to!  Have a wonderful weekend!  I hope to have some of these at Unearthed Arts on Saturday.

Friday, March 17, 2017

We're All Ears: March 2017

This month the inspiration for the We're All Ears challenge over on the Earrings Everyday blog is all about one of my favorite birds... owls!!  There are so many amazing and beautiful types of owls and a few of them are pictured below.

Photo credits :: Unsplash :: clockwise from top R
Quentin Dr :: Andy Chilton :: Massimo Mancini :: Paul Morley :: Ray Hennessey :: Andy Chilton :: Cliff Johnson

Unfortunately for me, most of my owl beads are not really earring appropriate.  They are mostly art bead focals and some other beads that are just a little bit to big or heavy for earrings.  But there is a pressed Czech glass owl bead in my stash that I've collected in a variety of colors.  I've been making an owl and oak leaf earring design for a couple of years with these beads (see below) but I didn't want to rest on my laurels.  Instead, I knew that I needed to come up with a new design or two for this challenge.

A rainbow of owl earrings from last fall!

I pulled out a few pairs of the owl beads in various colors and started to play around with some new ideas.  My first thought was to put a little wooden bead under each owl to make it seem like they were sitting on a perch... I then added a little bit of brass plated leafy chain dangling from the bottom.

Even though I thought that this was a pretty cute idea, I still wanted to come up with a design that was a little smaller scale.  Not everyone wants a super long dangly earring after all!  For my other two pairs I matched the owls with some wooden disc beads and coordinating Czech glass at the bottom.

Thanks for stopping by to see my owlish earrings!  Now flap your wings and fly on over to the Earrings Everyday blog to see what the hoot owls inspired other designers to make!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Art Bead Scene: March 2017

The inspiration for this month's Art Bead Scene challenge is Armed Birds Nest in Acacia Bush, Chile by Marianne North.  Marianne North was a remarkable Victorian artist who travelled the globe in order to satisfy her passion for recording the world's flora with her paintbrush. The scientific accuracy with which she documented plant life in all parts of the world, before photography became a practical option, gives her work a permanent value.  You can read more about the artwork and the artist on the ABS blog HERE.

Armed Bird's Nest in Acacia Bush, Chile
Marianne North
Oil On Paper
Even though yellow really isn't one of my favorite colors to design with, this is actually one of my favorite pieces for the 2017 challenges.  Moreover, I wouldn't have really thought about combining the goldenrod yellow with the purple blue tones... but somehow it works!

The first things that caught my eye when I was looking through my art beads were a pair of mustard yellow silk wrapped links from SagaHus Components.  I made dangles with some purple Humblebeads discs and topaz colored Czech glass flowers.  I'm really loving how these turned out!

Next up, I strung a necklace with a lovely pendant from Humblebeads.  The flowering tree on the pendant could surely be the same as the one from the painting!  The background of the pendant is more blue than purple so I chose some faceted chalcedony and blue vintage German glass to pull out those tones.  The oblong gold colored glass is also vintage German with some small Czech glass rondelles and pretty Picasso finished seed beads.

Last but not least, I made another pair of earrings with some components from The Classic Bead that I've had forever.  I finally got brave enough to play with the wire wrapping to make these work.  I had a couple of larger sized pale purple Czech glass flowers left over from a long-ago project that I paired with some smaller tan and rose toned flowers dangling from chain.

Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been up to!  Enjoy your week!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bead Cruise 2017

2017 marked the 12th annual sailing of the Bead Cruise organized by Heather Powers of Humblebeads fame... and my third trip aboard this beady voyage.  This cruise is always an amazing time filled with laughter, learning, and (for me, anyway) lounging on the beach.  I think most of us Bead Cruisers would agree that the experience is as much about seeing old friends (and meeting new ones!) as it is the wonderful classes.

As I have after past Bead Cruises and other jewelry class experiences, I thought I'd share a little of my adventures with you here to give you an idea of what it's all about.  This year we set sail on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas out of Galveston, Texas with stops in Roatan, Belize City, and Cozumel.  Below you'll see our ship, my roommate Lissa and I on the bus to the port, and us enjoying our first cocktail of the cruise.

Full disclosure: the fun actually started with a couple of nights in Houston with a field trip to one of our fellow cruiser's bead stores, Beadoholique, and a group dinner to kick things off.  Whenever possible, Heather tries to schedule a pre-cruise bead store adventure!  The first night of the cruise, Heather always hosts a welcome party with a pendant exchange.  This gives us all a chance to meet each other and our instructors, get any important updates from Heather, and get out fabulous goody bags filled with yummy and fun things from the cruise sponsors.  Here's part of what I got in my bag this year...

Just some of our goodies from the Bead Cruise Sponsors: Whim Beads, Nunn Design, Allegory Gallery, Firefly Design Studio, Vintaj, East of the Sun West of the Moon, Thornburg Bead Studio, Humblebeads, Sue Beads, Mary Harding, Marsha Neal, Tesori Trovati

This trip we had two at sea days at the start of the trip allowing us to begin our adventure with our full and half day classes (more about those in a bit) before hitting our first port... Roatan, Honduras.  Lissa and I, along with a van full of our fellow Bead Cruisers got a guided tour of the island.  The highlight of the tour was a boat ride through the mangroves and a view of Roatan's Little Venice community from the water.

That night was the Midsummer Night's Dream costume party.  The annual costume cocktail party is always a highlight.  Heather chooses a different theme every year, but people really responded to this year's fairy-centric theme and went all out!  Here's a peek at some of my favorite fairies...

Our second port was Belize City, Belize.  This was my first time taking a tender off of a cruise ship and I can tell you I far prefer ports where you can just walk off the ship.  When you have to tender, you actually end up taking a smaller boat from the ship to shore and back.  It just makes the whole process and timing of things a little more complicated and stressful when you're trying to make it to a shore excursion.  But I digress... after a 40 minute boat ride we found our tour group and headed off to the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha.  Despite the crazy heat, I had to climb to the top of the large temple for some pictures.  I was rewarded with a cool breeze and a magnificent view from the top!

Our final stop was in Cozumel, Mexico where Lissa, myself, and a few other ladies from our group enjoyed some beach time and a fabulous cooking class at Playa Mia.  Those of you who know me, know that I'm no cook.  As a matter of fact, I'm barely allowed in the kitchen!  I'm so shocked that I made myself a three course lunch and it was absolutely delicious!!

Ok, enough about the vacation aspects of the Bead Cruise and onto the classes!  One of the things that I appreciate about the Bead Cruise is that there are classes for a wide variety of interests... it's not all seed beads like some retreats that I've seen.  A full day and a half day class are included as part of your cruise registration with the option to add up to two extra half day classes.  I was an overachiever as always and signed up for four classes.  Sadly, I wasn't as diligent about taking pictures during my classes as I have been in the past (I was super busy with my projects!) but I do have pics of my finished/semi-finished projects.

This year I took classes from Eva Sherman and Heather Powers that focused on metal work and polymer clay.  I never imagined that I would actually enjoy polymer clay until I went to Heather's Inspired by Nature retreat last fall... but I'm really enjoying the versatility of this medium.  My all day class was Eva's "Groovy Cuffs and Pendants" where we learned a fun technique to layer polymer clay and create really cool patterns.  I adore how my pieces turned out and am itching to break out the toaster oven to make some more things now that I'm home!  My half day class was Heather's "Sweetest Song" where we used her "Metal Sketches" technique to create a cute, folk-art inspired bird pendant.  We had all the supplies to finish a necklace, but I ran out of time and wanted to focus on getting my pendant colored with the Swellegant patinas and dyes.  I need to sit down and finish the other components so I'll have a wearable necklace!

The two optional half day classes were held at the end of the cruise on our final at sea day before returning to Galveston.  My morning class was another polymer clay class, Heather's "Sea Pods."  I had fun sculpting a variety of pod and shell shapes and turning them into headpins.  Some of the designs were easier than others, but I'll give them all another try at home where there are no time constraints.  We used alcohol inks and patina paints to give life to these little beauties so now I have more things I'd like to buy to add to my tool box.  My final half day class was back to Eva for her "Gypsy Woman Cuff."  This was a fun bracelet project that looks more complicated than it really was.  Eva had pre-cut copper sheet that she had textured with a rolling mill.  I finished one cuff in class and went home with the supplies to make two more.  Beyond that, I think I'd need to book studio time someplace to use a guillotine and maybe a rolling mill since those are both tools that are a little expensive for me right now.      

The Bead Cruise ends with the last of the annual events, the dreaded Goodbye Party on the last night.  Each year, Heather challenges cruisers to make something using items from our goody bags from at least three sponsors and the group votes on their favorites and prizes are awarded at the party.  It was nice to see prizes go to several first time Bead Cruisers this year.  The next morning it's off the ship and back to the airport for our re-entry to the real world.  As I write this a few days after arriving back home, I still feel the motion of the ocean in my inner ear, but am starting to readjust to life on dry land.  To wrap this up, I'll just leave you with a few pictures of me relaxing during the cruise... when life gets to hectic I'll just close my eyes and imagine myself back on the beach in Cozumel or enjoying a sunset on my stateroom balcony!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 2017 Inspiration for the Honey Do List

Last year, my husband Eric has decided to issue me a design challenge each month to get me out of my comfort zone and to help clear out my bead stash... and we're continuing the Honey Do List for 2017!  I know that I'm not the only one who loves a good design challenge, so I'm hoping folks will continue to play along!  

Here's this month's inspiration and what Eric had to say about it:

I finally got set up with winter gear to go out in the Minnesota tundra...then it promptly got into the 60's and all the snow melted.  Shrugging it off--and into a light jacket--I took a trip down to the river in Belle Plaine and discovered these melting ice crystals shoved up onto the bank.  Not much colorful to take shots of yet but crystals seemed appropriate for a jewelry challenge!

The reveal date will be Monday, March 27th.  To make it super easy for you to participate and share your creations, I'll set up an Inlinkz link up so folks can add their blogs as they are ready.  Just stop by my blog starting on March 27th and join the fun!  I'll leave the link up open for a while... so you have plenty of time to add your links.  (Last month's is still open... check it out HERE.)  No blog?  No worries!  Feel free to send me a picture of your creation and some brief comments and I'll happily share in my blog post.  You can reach me at  The more the merrier, so I hope you'll play along with me this month!